Client: The Australian National University
Location: Canberra, Australia
Completion date: 2012
Artwork budget: $234,105
UNA, a sculpture by artist Wolfgang Buttress was commissioned in 2012 for the new medical science precinct at The Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. The research into digitally plotting the stars was done in collaboration with respected astrophysicist Dr. Daniel Bayliss of ANU.
A highly polished 4m diameter stainless steel sphere features 9,100 laser cut perforations which accurately map the stars visible to the naked eye in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, which are laser cut according to their luminosity. The inner sphere reflects rays of light, adding a magical dimension to the artwork experience.
Integration into the university site was paramount from the outset, active collaboration between the project team ensured UNA sits perfectly within the outdoor courtyard and lecture theatre - which acts as the connecting space between medical science faculties.The sculpture is a celebration of context and a meditation on our relationship with the earth and the night sky. This is expressed in 5 ways.
1. From afar one can see the ever changing conditions of sky, trees and fauna reflected in the mirror polished outer sphere.
2. On approach one sees the architecture and the built environment.
3. Up close one sees one own reflection as well as the surrounding context.
4. Looking through the perforations one sees the night sky in microcosm reflected in the inner sphere.
5. At night and from afar one sees the stars expressed as points of light on the outer sphere.
UNA expresses the essence of the immediate scientific, built and natural environment. It also asks questions about our relation with and suggests the enormity and untouchable presence of the stars. You can see but you cannot touch. We are contextual but also transient.
UK based artist Wolfgang Buttress worked in collaboration with ANU's Dr Daniel Bayliss to accurately map the stars on the artwork's exterior sphere.
Australian based Project Manager Rebecca Townsend worked closely with Buttress and Australian stainless steel fabricators NRG Piping (QLD) and Dished and Flanged Ends (VIC) over 12 months to produce customised sphere templates and co-ordinate laser cutting, welding and polishing of the artwork. Paul Dash of renowned Australian architecture firm Lyons architecture (VIC) ensured the successful integration of the artwork into its education campus location and designed the purpose built artwork plinth which mirrors window frames on surrounding buildings. The artwork plaque was designed to act as a maintenance door to access fibre optic lighting cables inside.
The magic of the sculpture is revealed once you look inside. Peering through the perforation of a single ‘star’ the viewer is suddenly captivated by a field of cosmic vision. The highly polished inner sphere reflects tiny rays of light filtering through the outer ball. Bouncing off the polished inner surfaces, the effect, at different times of the day, reveals a beautiful and entirely different universe. This artwork concept is based on the relationship between micro and macro, the atom and the universe.